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IBAA Convention—Highlights and Benefits

Posted By Thom Young, May 30, 2016

Another Convention Come and Gone

Attending your industry association’s convention is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your own enterprise. While this rule applies to those who pursue a vocation in any industry, it is especially true in the General insurance business. As we compete for the same customers, the ensuing competitive environment provides the public with a better outcome on price and service. Knowing who your competition is and what they’re doing is a very important part of the process and, in a complicated business such as ours, being aware of what’s new and developing is critical to remaining competitive.

Attending convention lets you study the issues affecting your market to determine why you’re losing clients to someone else. It also provides information about ways to react to changing markets and conditions ahead of your competitors—and we all know that change in our industry is inevitable. Peeking into the future at a convention helps you prepare for it. No matter what industry publications you follow, nothing gives you a better firsthand look at what’s available than walking around the industry trade show. Anyone with a solution for your problems is there vying for your business—insurers, Broker Management System suppliers, claims-response companies, adjusters, contractors, special-risk markets, education suppliers, human-resource companies, you name it. With their competitors nearby, you can quickly and easily compare their products and prices. Talk about getting a competitive advantage!

Beyond the trade show, the convention offers many opportunities for networking and information gathering. Seminars offer insights into the evolution of the business, with the added bonus of obtaining those much needed Continuing Education credits just before your licenses are due for renewal. Even better are the meetings and the gatherings hosted by the companies you deal with (or don’t) in informal, comfortable settings. Getting one-on-one time with the heads of Canadian insurance companies provides interesting insights into the problems our business is facing and how to mitigate them. Advance notice on the roll out of new products or, even more important, changes to existing ones is often timed to coincide with these gatherings so the senior managers can gauge the enthusiasm for their planned changes and adjust them if necessary prior to release. You can’t put a price on this investment of time and resources.

If you haven’t attended convention because you’re not sure that there’s a cost benefit to the time or the money spent, I think you’re making a mistake. If you can’t be away for the whole 3+ days, attend at least a day or so. IBAA provides attractive pricing for these options. If you’re interested in finding out what your association is doing for you and the direction its advocacy group is leaning into the political winds, the Annual General Meeting is a must. It's free for all members to attend and to ask questions. You might also be so inclined to get further involved in the process and put your name forward when the calls for nomination are sent from local councils and the IBAA executive and board of directors. If you get involved as a regional representative or board member, you could actually have a say in the direction of the association and make the policy. Your ideas are as good as anyone’s, so get them out there.

Did you know that this year was Larry Heron’s 53rd time attending the AGM? He was president of the organization in 1981 (Insurance West). When his record of attendance was announced, someone poked me and jokingly asked how many more years until I catch up with him. I had never really given any thought to the number of times I’d attended. Working backwards with a failing memory, I believe this year was my 27th consecutive AGM. I credit a lot of my success in this business with my involvement in IBAA. From the contacts I’ve made to the help I’ve received with issues throughout the years, any costs I’ve incurred have been repaid many times over. I certainly recommend that you attend as often as you can.

For those of you who didn’t attend the convention, one of the high points was (and frequently is) the CEO panel. A group of willing insurer CEOs assembles to express their views on current events, postulate on the challenges, and opine on the future of the insurance industry. Here are my takeaway from the discussions:

  • This year, eight CEO attended: Greg Somerville from Aviva, Karen Gavan from Economical, Jean-François Blais from Intact, Gene Paulsen from Peace Hills, Bob Tisdale from Pembridge, Rowan Saunders from RSA, Duane Sanders from Travelers, and Jeff Goy from Wawanesa.  Front and centre was the Fort McMurray wildfire, evacuation, and tremendous losses the people have suffered. All company representatives discussed the need to help these folks through the claims process as quickly as reasonably possible.
  • The consensus at the AGM on supporting market distribution through digital access was resoundingly echoed by the CEOs. All the insurers are moving in this direction. While the digital market could be a disrupter, we’ve been dealing with it for a decade now. Further, making the product easier to buy does not change the dynamics of customer service formulae. The real test for service in our business arises when the client has a loss. As yet, no digital interface successfully deals with the needs of clients when they have a claim. Personal contact is still critical to keeping the client happy.
  • We now have a UBI product available through Pembridge. Others are soon to follow.
  • Several panellists spoke to the need for brokers to “catch up” on the tech side of things.
  • As a broker who remains frustrated with the inability of the companies to get their database systems to allow a Single Entry Multiple Company Interface on any line of business, it amuses me when insurers say brokers are behind on technology. For 20 years we’ve heard excuses such as security, connectivity, and legacy systems, yet I believe a cooperative and workable solution to this problem doesn’t exist because the companies see database management as a competitive advantage, rather than as a tool of process. The Canadian Banking system moves much more data than insurance companies do over a network built cooperatively through the Canadian Payment association. The banking system not only provides a secure platform for customers and members but also meets the need for customization to each bank’s processes. You can use your bank card at any ATM, regardless of provider. In the insurance world, we’re still arguing about which line numbers of the database have what data in them and cannot come up with a consistent way of sending and receiving data. Please don’t tell brokers they need to catch up on technology when insurers cannot provide a viable digital solution. “If you build it, we will come!”
  • Quite a bit of discussion focused on the continued need to both prevent and mitigate claims through all means possible. Referencing Fort McMurray and other fire losses that may become more serious due to climate change, separating communities from the boreal forests in Canadian communities should be a priority. Enhancing building codes and introducing bylaws that require all roofs to be constructed of non-combustible material was suggested as a responsible approach, much like similar undertakings recommended to mitigate flood losses.

I always enjoy the enlightening and informative perspectives of the CEOs who agree to participate. Where I have unanswered questions at these events, I am often fortunate enough to be able to ask the individuals directly at the many social functions at convention (although I don’t always get an answer). Had I had the opportunity to ask the panel directly, I would have questioned the wisdom of competing with their own distribution channels under the same name. A separate entity creates a level playing field for broker competition. Oh, well, I know the question has been asked and answered!

In Closing

I enjoyed seeing many old friends and colleagues in Banff last week and was encouraged to hear that the work I put into this blog is appreciated. Even more inspiring, I heard from many new people who look forward to this little essay and value the perspectives I try to present. Of course, they do not agree with everything I write, but stimulating discussion and debate on issues that affect us is really the aim of an editorial opinion, isn’t it? While I don’t often get accused of being timid with the issues, I go to great lengths to be respectful and fair to both sides of the debate. That perspective is often a challenge, particularly when I find myself passionate about a topic. So far, reader support seems to indicate that I am meeting that goal.

The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.


Tags:  CEO panel  Fort McMurray  IBAA board involvement  IBAA convention  Single Entry Multiple Company Interface  technology  wildfire 

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Fort McMurray: How Can We Help?

Posted By Thom Young, May 10, 2016

Fort McMurray: How Can We Help?

Despite a host of issues to discuss, my focus in this column is on the Fort McMurray catastrophe. The scale of the tragedy and scope of the disruption is just becoming known. As I write, the current estimates are that over 1600 “structures” have been lost to date and several hundred more are in imminent risk saved only by the whim of the winds and the valiant efforts of the fire fighters and volunteers doing all they can. By the time you read this column, our industry response to this historical disruption to the people that we serve will be well underway. The media has conveyed the confusion and the concern in this mass scramble to evacuate a community of more than 80,000 people and the reality of people navigating their vehicles with their families and whatever possessions they could grab through the conflagration of a forest engulfed in flames. One client of ours reported that the windows of his car were, at one point in his journey to escape, too hot to touch on the inside. Another told the story of his family seeing the flames lapping at the back of their home as they were going out the front door. By some form of providence, no lives were lost directly from the fire, the sad tragedy of a traffic accident taking two young lives notwithstanding. I cannot recall such a successful movement of that many people in so short a period of time and over geographical distances of such proportions. Floods cause evacuations with a much lesser sense of urgency than feeling the heat of a fire on your back while running away. This truly amazing story has only just begun.

Our insurers have sent many notices about the systems in place to deal with the clients who are out of their homes with little or no documentation and very confused about what to do now. While they can find help in many places, getting the information out to these people is the problem. The magazine Canadian Insurance Broker has put out a guide for brokers that is very comprehensive and is being updated regularly.

If people don’t know who they are insured with, they can be referred to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, whose coordinated name and address searches with their members can identify claimants’ policy information to get the claimants in touch with their company’s claims centres. The process is tedious though and the frustration level high, so be patient with these people if you are trying to help them.

I had an interesting discussion with a broker the other day who was of the opinion that assisting an insured who is not a client with the claims process on behalf of the insurer is somehow an infraction under the Insurance Act. Nothing could be further from the truth, and you’re adding to the frustration these people are experiencing if you tell them that you can’t help them. Pushing them back on their broker is futile as well. I know of one brokerage firm an office of three agents that has 3500 clients in Fort McMurray. The office has been evacuated, and no one can get in to restore operations until the evacuation orders are lifted. The three brokers working there have all lost their homes and will be dealing with their personal priorities for a while. If you get a call from people looking for help with their claim, please provide them with information and advice.

  • Get them in front of the right people to initiate their claim.
  • Tell them to keep good records of their expenses.
  • Advise them as you would your own clients on beginning to prepare the lists of belongings lost.
  • Advise them on the time they have to get their claim started.
  • Most importantly, comfort them with assurances that you would give your own clients.

Of course, you will need to qualify the advice because you haven’t seen their policy, but you can provide general advise. You know what’s covered under a homeowners policy, and the statutes are absolute no matter who the insurer is. These people are desperate for words of comfort, and we can give it to them without creating an estoppel. Do what you can to help!

Replacing Alberta Official Documents

People who have been evacuated from Ft. McMurray and are in need of replacement documents—from auto registrations to driver’s licenses and birth certificates—can obtain these at most registry agents offices free of charge. The government has waived the fees for these people and most registry offices have waived them as well. People who are starting to rebuild their lives can be directed to a registry office to get this task underway.

In Closing

I am busy with a number of things focusing on the Ft. McMurray event and am cutting my essay short for this issue. Much more is to come on this story. After the tragedy of Slave Lake, much dialogue surrounded what could and should have been done to prevent what occurred there from happening again. All of our communities situated in the boreal forests of Canada must take note and begin to implement mitigation and suppression efforts to protect against wildfires. That discussion is for another day. Today, we focus on helping our fellow Albertans get through this.

The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.


Tags:  catastrophic risk  customer service  evacuation  Fort McMurray  IBC  Insurance Bureau of Canada  mitigation  wildfire 

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